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Showing posts from September, 2004

Pause

I'm going to take a pause from blogging for a week or two, because I'm a little afraid of ending up like this, I've got some things I need to write for other venues, and my day/night/weekend job of teaching is eating up most of my spare time. I promise to return soon and not end up like the perpetually-soon-to-reappear Moby.

I trust that I've got enough other sites listed in the sidebar that you won't have too much trouble finding things to read while I'm away.

Cheers,
Matt

Horses Blow Up Dog City review

The new issue of SF Site is now alive and kicking in the cybersphere, and it includes my review of Richard Butner's Horses Blow Up Dog City & Other Stories, yet another Small Beer Press chapbook I like. Read the review to find out why. Or just continue on in blissful ignorance.

Also, the good people at Small Beer have sent word that Richard Butner will be appearing at Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina tonight at 8pm with David Connerley Nahm. If I were near Chapel Hill, I would go, as, I'm sure, you would, too.

Caribbean Storms

Tobias Buckell, a native of Grenada and a fine writer, has made a plea on his weblog:In Grenada 90% of all the houses there are badly damaged, and no one is sure how many of those are habitable (estimates range). Winds were in excess of a steady 140 miles an hour, one of the largest storms to hit the larger Caribbean area. Grenada has a population of 90,000, and is a small country dependent on nutmeg, bananas, some small industry, and tourism, which was hit hard in the mid 80s (if you don't know why I don't have time explain). If you know much about world politics, if you're a small 3rd world country in the US's backyard, agricultural produce won't make you rich. And tourism suffered again in Grenada after 9/11.

I can't imagine what a immense blow this is to the island, an island where much of my roots lie, and I can't help but be somewhat affected as well. Having lost my home to a hurricane in the USVI once, I know this is a tough time many are going throu…

On John Gardner

Today is the anniversary of the death of John Gardner. Gardner's work has been a large influence on me, because I have both revered and loathed it, embraced it and fought against it, ever since I first discovered The Art of Fiction when I was twelve. I'd read lots of other books on writing, but none had ever made me think so hard -- many pages of the book are indecipherable to even the most literate twelve-year-old. Later, under the influence of his On Moral Fiction, I wrote a paper denouncing my tenth-grade English teacher's choice of text, bewildering her and earning myself the only C I ever got in an English class. I devoured his novels -- Sunlight Dialogues, Nickel Mountain, October Light, and others -- because he radiated a sense of importance, and I was young enough to take him seriously, though none of his most famous novels felt at all satisfying to me. Later, having pretty well decided On Moral Fiction was passionate crap, I gave up on Gardner, returning late…

Bittersweet Creek by Christopher Rowe

Christopher Rowe and Gwenda Bond recently got married, and so this is a perfectly good time for me to say nice things about Christopher's Small Beer Press chapbook, Bittersweet Creek and Other Stories. (I can also point out that Gwenda has posted a new interview with one of the creative geniuses behind Small Beer Press, Kelly Link over at Edward Champion's Return of the Reluctant blog.)

Christopher Rowe has been publishing strange stories about fantastic events in the Southern USA for a few years now, and I have not been quiet about my admiration for his recent story "The Voluntary State", a story that is not only the best Rowe I've read, but unquestionably one of the best science fiction stories published so far this year. Bittersweet Creek contains earlier stories, less ambitious stories, but stories that are nonetheless satisfying and sometimes haunting.

One of the satsifying things about this collection is how well the different pieces work together, how we…

Build Yourself a Rocket!

It's not going to do anybody who is interested in science fiction being taken seriously as mature, adult literature any good, but this site made me smile. Hard SF fans will like the discussion of all the rocket stuff. Me, I just looked at the pictures. I'm a sucker for pulpy SF art from before Sputnik made it all so dull, pedestrian, and realistic.

(via Exclamation Mark)

Fiction and Necessity (Among Other Subjects)

I wasn't sure if I should comment on Mark Rich's review of Jeff VanderMeer'sCity of Saints and Madmen. After all, Jeff's a friend, and City of Saints is a book I enjoy and admire so much that it sends me into spasms of hyperbole whenever I write about it. I also recognize it's not the sort of book that will appeal to every reader.

That said, the review has stuck in my mind for a few days, which means I really need to write something so I can stop thinking about it. I have no desire to be the VanderMeer Watchdog, but Rich's essay raises large issues of how innovative books are reviewed, and those issues should be addressed.

I am not against negative reviews, nor am I against negative reviews of books I like, or of books by people I like, or both. Indeed, I think a critic's first obligation is to be honest, though it's nice if that honesty can be tempered with knowledge of context and with fine reading skills. Even the best critics make mistakes, con…

Site Note

I've done a few little updates here, adding some links I've collected to the sidebar, and, most noticeably, putting up some ads at the end of the sidebar. They don't seem too obtrusive, so the ads seemed like a worthwhile experiment. If you think I've gone over to the dark side of consumerism ... well, I guess I have. But I'm putting so much time into this blog these days, it seems a shame not to get at least a couple cents from it.

The The Soundtrack for The The New Weird

At a Worldcon panel on "The New Weird", Jon Courtenay Grimwood, who was in the audience, suggested that the occasional territorial defensiveness displayed in some of the conversations with British advocates of the New Weird could come from the sensibility created by writers who lived through the Thatcher years. He seemed to me to be saying that writers who had known England before Thatcher, who lived through her reign, and who are now quite sensitive to the country that exists after her legacy (a country that is notably different from the one she took control of) might think New Weird can only be written by people of similar experiences. The effect of Reagan on the U.S., for instance, was different and would perhaps create a different sensibility.

To illustrate the Thatcherized sensibility, Jonathan Strahan quoted The The's song "Heartland" from memory:Beneath the old iron bridges
Across the Victorian parks
And all the frightened people
Running home before da…

In Memoriam: Donald Allen

From the NY Times:Donald Merriam Allen, a poetry editor whose 1960 anthology of the era's contemporary and avant-garde poets remains a milestone in American letters, died on Aug. 29 in San Francisco. He was 92. ...

Mr. Allen's handiwork caused a literary stir and upset the poetry establishment in particular. It spotlighted some large new talents culled from small magazines and lent a degree of respectability even to fringe lyricists from San Francisco and its environs.The anthology in question is The New American Poetry, 1945-1960, an anthology that in some ways still has not been surpassed as a snapshot of certain types of writing at a particular time in American history. Allen later edited The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry Revised, as well as books on specific authors -- my own favorite is The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara.

The geography of American poetry would have been different without Donald Allen's guidebooks.

As Librarians See Us

Dave Langford's Ansible often has a section titled "As Others See Us", about non-science-fiction people saying things about science fiction people that seem kind of funny to those of us in the know. That's immediately what I thought of when I read this article from Library Journal about a study of 32 science fiction readers to determine how, why, and what they read so that librarians who are not, themselves, familiar with science fiction can better serve patrons who are.

I don't know if the article will be at all useful to librarians (it's a bit vague), but I found it fascinating nonetheless. It's reductive and odd in some of its analyses, but amusingly earnest in the way that attempts at statistical analysis can be. It might even be thought-provoking. For instance:The strategic, or functional, reasons for reading sf have little to do with the book's content or the reading experience. According to the study, four strategic reasons for reading sci-…

Gaylactic Spectrum Awards 2004

I, shamefully, totally missed it, but the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards were given out at WorldCon "to honor works in science fiction, fantasy and horror which include positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters, themes, or issues". Here's the list:Best Short Fiction
Winner: "Lark till Dawn, Princess", Barth Anderson (Mojo: Conjure Stories)

Short list:
"Down with the Lizards and Bees", Tim Pratt (Realms of Fantasy 8/03; Little Gods)
"Kiss", Steve Berman (X-Factor)
"Poison", Beth Bernobich (Strange Horizons 1/20/03)
"The Tawny Bitch", Nisi Shawl (Mojo: Conjure Stories)
"The Golden Boy", Warren Rochelle (The Silver Gryphon)
"Living with the Harpy", Tim Pratt (Strange Horizons 10/27/03)
"The Riverboy", A.M. Dellamonica (Land/Space)
"Walking Contradiction", Nancy Jane Moore (Imaginings)

Best Novel
Winner: The Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson (Warner Books)

Short …

WorldCon Panel: The Best Stories of the Year

I've been doing a terrible job of posting from the convention, since most of my time has been taken up with walking between events and sitting around chatting with people. (The best WorldCon blogging I've seen -- and, granted, I haven't had time to look around mich, is at the official blog, though Cheryl Morgan has also been trying to keep up.) However, I've decided that I will make one substantive post from the con before I leave, so here it is, provided the battery on my computer doesn't run out too quickly...

I attended (and took notes at) the a panel on the best stories of the year (so far), moderated by Jonathan Strahan and attended by Gavin Grant, Kathryn Cramer, and Ellen Datlow, all of whom are editors of one "Best of the Year" anthology or another. Gardner Dozois was scheduled to be there, but he was in a car accident shortly before the con and is at home recovering. (Word has it that though he got hurt quite a bit, Dozois is doing okay.)

Muc…

Hugo Award Results 2004

The Hugo Awards ceremony just ended, with Neil Gaiman as a charming and witty MC. Here are the results:

Best Novel: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
Best Novella: "The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge
Best Novelette: "Legions in Time" by Michael Swanwick
Best Short Story: "A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman
Best Related Book: The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective by John Grant, Elizabeth L. Humphrey, and Pamela D. Scoville
Best Professional Editor: Gardner Dozois
Best Professional Artist: Bob Eggleton
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form: Gollum's Acceptance Speech at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards
Best Semi-Prozine: Locus
Best Fanzine: Emerald City, Cheryl Morgan, ed.
Best Fan Writer: Dave Langford
Best Fan Artist: Frank Wu
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo Award, officially): Jay Lake
Special Noreascon 4 Comm…

Another Note from Noreascon

[Note: Sorry for the lack of copious hyperlinks in the post below, but the wireless network here is pretty slow, and I'm writing hastily between events.]

Well, it's day two of the convention now, and though I said I wasn't overwhelmed yesterday, I discovered when I returned to my hotel room for a brief break around 8 that I was completely exhausted and my legs felt like someone had rammed iron nails into them. The Hynes Convention Center is huge, a cross between a warehouse and catacombs, and to get from one event to another can require ten or fifteen minutes of walking. The variety of events is extraordinary, though I have found myself often unable to attend various panels because I have ended up in conversations with people in the hallways and by the time we finish the panel is almost over.

My worst moment yesterday came when I bought a copy of Justina Robson's Natural History from Borderlands Books seconds before someone else wanted it. It was the paperback editi…

A Note from Noreascon

I have landed at Noreascon, this year's World Science Fiction Convention, and am not yet as overwhelmed as everyone told me I would be at my first SF convention. I've deliberately taken it easy, so far attending only a reading by various quacks doctors who contributed to the Lambshead Guide, and then the Cambridge Writers' Workshop critique of a new Jim Kelly story. One of the highlights so far has been the chance to say hello to Kelly Link and Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press and to get a copy of Theodora Goss'snew chapbook -- as well as the chance to tell her that buying it was one of my anticipated highlights for the convention, as I have been aching to get my hands on a copy since I first heard about it.

I don't need to turn this post into the standard sort of "and then I got up and made a cup of coffee and I thought about my life and realized it was a bitter life and then Joe called and I said hi and we wandered off to the cafe and we drank coffee and th…

A Conversation with Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi has published a handful of stories in F&SF, including "The Fluted Girl", which appeared in more Best of the Year anthologies than any other single story from 2003. This year, "The People of Sand and Slag" appeared in F&SF and "The Pasho" in Asimov's.

Bacigalupi lives now in Colorado, where he grew up, but he has spent a lot of time traveling, particularly in Asia and India. In 1999, the same year he published his first story in F&SF, he had an essay at Salon.com about some of his experiences in China. He has worked as a writer and online editor for High Country News and has published essays and articles on conservation issues and politics.

But it's his fiction that intrigued me, and made me seek him out and see if he would be willing to answer some questions. He was, and his replies were fascinating, as you'll see below.

It is hard to describe Bacigalupi's stories effectively, to capture the disturbing oddn…

Escape from Reality!

It's opening paragraphs of reviews like this one that give me dental problems:Life in England must be hell on earth. How else to explain the huge number of fantasy authors who hail from its shores? While America has produced sci-fi authors focused on the application of technology for the betterment (or detriment) of humanity, many British authors seem to value nothing more than a headlong flight from this world into another. J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Neil Gaiman have all made themselves rich and famous by running away. Joining this exodus from reality is Susanna Clarke and her first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is being billed as a Harry Potter for adults.I have not read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, nor do I expect to have time to in the near future, but it isn't anything about that particular book that bothered me in the paragraph; it is, instead, the assumption that fantasy equals escape from "the real world", as if…